A low thunder rumbles in the distance. Cat meows for my attention. Katydids and tree frogs sing the music of the twinkling stars in the bowl of night. The rain has begun, a light sprinkle. Late August. I feel the first chill of autumn in the middle of August, consistently on the fifteenth or sixteenth. This year it was the fifteenth, a night when the temperature drops into the low sixties. I put on a sweatshirt. It's slightly too chilly for short sleeves and not quite enough for long sleeves. I'd rather arms be warm than cold. Must rise early in the morning, which means get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight, set the alarm and see if sleep will o'ertake consciousness. Sleep usually eludes when I have to get up and go someplace in the morning. I don't want to wake up late, so I have a hard time letting go of consciousness, apprehensive that I may not hear the alarm, the alarm may not go off. The way it works out, if I have to be up by six, sleep occurs around 5. Doesn't mean it has to be this time. Something has recently changed in my sleeping.
Caterpillar has taken to sleeping with me and I like it. Since the fur has been shaved from her skin, she freezes at night. I took her to bed one night and she was snug, warm and happy. Slept all night without moving. She does not move in the night. I'm the one that sometimes crushes her by rolling over on top of her unconscious. She doesn't even squawk. I wake up right away, the unconscious knows the lump in the bed is cat. I jump awake, move, apologize. Cat doesn't mind. Or, anyway, never lets on. She is plenty warm all night under the covers, wakes in the morning a renewed cat. She did not want to get up this morning when I did, so I let her stay under the covers. Some hours later I went to take a nap. She was still sleeping. I woke her and slowly lifted the cover so she could see. First thing she saw was time of day by the slant of the sunlight in the window, mid afternoon. She did a cat double-take. Her eyes were quickly alert. I could see her thinking, It's late. I've slept too long. I have things to do. And she wanted up right now. She went to the water bowl and drank like a camel, to her food bowl where I'd just put down fresh food, and out the door with determined urgency. She'd missed her morning sunning place and the early afternoon sunning place. She'd missed half a day of sun.
caterpillar before sheering
I first took Caterpillar under the covers to keep her shaven hide warm in the night. It has been a couple weeks and we're both comfortable with it. She likes sleeping next to her human and she likes the warmth under the cover. She likes the absence of light. She's eighteen now, a crone, and a bit more needing attention than ever before. She has always liked a daily assurance from her human that he's happy to have her here, that she belongs here, this is her home. She's outlived her siblings and the dog, she's loved by her human the same today as every day of her life. She needs to be held more now. Upon request, I'll pick her up and hold her a few minutes, she'll snuggle up against me like a baby and purr. I put her down and she goes outside ready to get on with the next part of the day. I don't know where she goes during the day, but do know she has places she likes at different times of day for the sun. I only know where she is when I find her by chance while I'm doing something besides looking for her. She has places where she likes to be still, watch the birds, the chipmunks, the squirrels. She doesn't catch them and eat them anymore. She likes to watch. She has become an observer in her advanced years.
Caterpillar has never been one to sleep on the bed with me. The other cats, Tar Baby and Tapo, slept on the bed nearly all the time. I like cats on the bed. A morning when Caterpillar was a year old or less, she was sleeping on the bed at my feet. Cats learned right away stay away from my feet in the night. Caterpillar had not slept on the bed enough to have learned yet about the feet. This one particular morning, in a dream I was startled by something that grabbed hold of my ankle, something like a small octopus. Dreaming, I tried to shake loose whatever creature it was. I woke simultaneously to see my leg kick to throw off the threatening unknown. It was Caterpillar lying across my ankle. I saw her fly through the air backwards, eyes big as sunflowers, hit the wall with her back about three feet above the floor, and fall to the floor. Caterpillar flying backwards is an image tattooed on my mind. Of course, I jumped out of the bed and picked her up to apologize. She didn't care to hear it. She wanted down. I put her down and she was out the door. I suspect she was so rattled she needed time to pull herself back together. Never jumped on the bed again. We're old now together and value each other more than ever. We communicate like never before. I feel like the distances of consciousness between us have narrowed considerably over the years since Tapo and TarBaby left us. I feel like I'm learning to understand Caterpillar. Love is the WiFi that makes understanding possible both directions at once.
caterpillar one year old
by tj worthington 1998